James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

December 31

Montgomery at Quebec

By Clinton Scollard (1860–1932)

  • Richard Montgomery was an American Revolutionary general who was killed on Dec. 31, 1775, while leading an attack on Quebec.

  • ROUND Quebec’s embattled walls

    Moodily the patriots lay;

    Dread disease within its thralls

    Drew them closer day by day;

    Till from suffering man to man,

    Mutinous, a murmur ran.

    Footsore, they had wandered far,

    They had fasted, they had bled;

    They had slept beneath the star

    With no pillow for the head;

    Was it but to freeze to stone

    In this cruel icy zone?

    Yet their leader held his heart,

    Naught discouraged, naught dismayed;

    Quelled with unobtrusive art

    Those that muttered; unafraid

    Waited, watchful, for the hour

    When his golden chance should flower.

    ’Twas the death-tide of the year;

    Night had passed its murky noon;

    Through the bitter atmosphere

    Pierced nor ray of star nor moon;

    But upon the bleak earth beat

    Blinding arrows of the sleet.

    While the trumpets of the storm

    Pealed the bastioned heights around,

    Did the dauntless heroes form,

    Did the low, sharp order sound.

    “Be the watchword Liberty!”

    Cried the brave Montgomery.

    Here, where he had won applause,

    When Wolfe faced the Gallic foe,

    For a nobler, grander cause

    Would he strike the fearless blow,—

    Smite at Wrong upon the throne,

    At Injustice giant grown.

    “Men, you will not fear to tread

    Where your general dares to lead!

    On, my valiant boys!” he said,

    And his foot was first to speed;

    Swiftly up the beetling steep,

    Lion-hearted, did he leap.

    Flashed a sudden blinding glare;

    Roared a fearsome battle-peal;

    Rang the gloomy vasts of air;

    Seemed the earth to rock and reel;

    While adown that fiery breath

    Rode the hurtling bolts of death.

    Woe for him, the valorous one,

    Now a silent clod of clay!

    Nevermore for him the sun

    Would make glad the paths of day;

    Yet ’twere better thus to die

    Than to cringe to tyranny!—

    Better thus the life to yield,

    Striking for the right and God,

    Upon Freedom’s gory field,

    Than to kiss oppression’s rod!

    Honor, then, for all time be

    To the brave Montgomery!